IT’S IN THEIR BLOOD

Due to occupational exposures, firefighters have a 100% higher risk of developing cancer.  Firefighter cancer risks are greater than the general population. In a study released by the University of Cincinnati, it determined that firefighters are at a greater risk of developing four different types of cancer.1  The report conducted by the university’s environmental health department found that firefighters are twice as likely to develop testicular cancer and have higher rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and prostate cancer.

It also highlighted the fact that firefighters are at a greater risk for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow, a disease with no treatment or cure.

Grace LeMasters, PhD professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UC, states “we believe there’s a direct correlation between the chemical exposures firefighters experience on the job and their increased risk for cancer.” She adds “firefighters work in an inherently dangerous occupation on a daily basis,” as public servants, they need—and deserve—additional protective measures that will ensure they aren’t at an increased cancer risk.”

Key findings found that firefighters* have:

  • 100% percent higher risk of developing testicular cancer
  • 50% percent higher risk for multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • 28% higher risk of prostate cancer

*compared with nonfirefighters

Researchers found that firefighters are exposed to many carcinogenic compounds including benzene, diesel engine exhaust, chloroform, soot, styrene and formaldehyde which are substances that are inhaled or absorbed through the skin and are typically found at both the scene of a fire and in the firehouse  (where idling diesel fire trucks produce exhaust).

The risk of cancer in firefighters is so severe that in 2010, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the United States Fire Administration (USFA), commissioned a study2 to examine the potential for an increased risk of cancer among firefighters due to exposures from smoke, soot, and other contaminants in the line of duty.

This multi-year study will include over 30,000 current and retired career firefighters and will improve upon previously published firefighter studies by significantly increasing the number of individuals for whose health data will be analyzed.

The former USFA Administrator Kelvin J. Cochran said, “There is a need to have a comprehensive study of the incidence of cancer in the fire service involving objective medical and epidemiological oversight. We have lost too many firefighters from this disease.”

 

References:

1. http://healthnews.uc.edu/news/?/3750/

2. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/updates/upd-04-23-10.html

Additional Resources:

http://www.usfa.fema.gov/fireservice/research/safety/niosh_cancer_study.shtm

http://www.fcsn.net/items/Fl%20File%20U.of%20Cinn%20Cancer%20Study.pdf